Pericardiectomy for Pericarditis in the Pediatric Population

Jess L. Thompson, Harold M. Burkhart, Joseph A. Dearani, Frank Cetta, Jae K. Oh, Hartzell V. Schaff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Background: Pericarditis requiring pericardiectomy is uncommon in the pediatric population. The aim of this study is to characterize our experience with this subset of patients. Methods: Between February 1978 and May 2008 pericardiectomy was performed on 27 pediatric patients (25 male). The indication for surgery was inflammatory pericarditis in 16 and constrictive pericarditis in 11. Mean age was 16.7 years (range, 3 to 21 years). Chest pain was the most common presenting complaint. Median duration of symptoms prior to operation was 1 year. Most patients had aggressive pharmacologic treatment prior to operation. Before pericardiectomy, 10 patients were hospitalized for treatment of symptoms, 15 underwent pericardiocentesis, and 3 had a prior partial pericardiectomy. Results: Twenty-one patients underwent complete pericardiectomy, 3 a biventricular pericardiectomy, and 3 a completion pericardiectomy. Pathologic histology of all specimens was positive for pericarditis. Pericardial cultures were obtained in 13 cases with bacteria retrieved from only 2 specimens. Median length of stay was 7 days, and the majority had an uneventful postoperative course. The one early mortality was due to acute hepatic failure in a patient with radiation-induced heart disease, 155 days after operation. After median follow-up of 1 year, complete resolution of symptoms was achieved in 89% of patients. Conclusions: In properly selected pediatric patients, complete pericardiectomy can be performed with good outcomes. Although the etiology of pericardial irritation is frequently elusive, resolution of symptoms can be expected in most patients. Confronted with medically refractory pericarditis, earlier consideration for pericardiectomy may be warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1546-1550
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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